Bay ready for his big day

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:10 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Should Jeff Conine and Jason Bay be mentioned in the same sentence?

One-time Blue Jays manager Jim Fregosi thinks so.

Fregosi managed the National League in the all-star game at Three Rivers Stadium in 1994 and failed to get Conine, then with the Florida Marlins, into the game.

"I told the players before the game how I'd do everything to win the game and that means some guys won't get in," Fregosi said. "I didn't use Conine, so people said I hated the whole state of Florida.

"People called my room. I had to have special protection when we went there."

The next year in Arlington, Tex., Conine pinch-hit for Ron Gant and hit the NL's third homer for a 3-2 win. Conine was named MVP.

Bay didn't play a year ago at Comerica Park, so he will try to repeat history tonight.

National League manager Phil Garner has Bay hitting fourth and playing in right field, rather than his normal left. Alfonso Soriano of the Washington Nationals is in left and Carlos Beltran of the New York Mets is in centre.

Bay wound up with 2,635,930 votes, second in the NL to the St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols with 3,418,555, outdistancing the NL's other two starting outfielders,

Bay owns a .284 average with 21 homers and 66 RBIs. The Pirates began a vigorous voting push for Bay in early June, spearheaded by public relations director Jim Trdinich.

MANY PEOPLE TO THANK

"I've got a lot of people to thank for this when I tip my hat during the introductions," Bay said. "The organization was great getting behind me, the fans were terrific and in my home country of Canada, people got out the vote there, too."

Bay, the first Pirates starter to be voted in as a starter since Andy Van Slyke in 1993, has become the face of the all-star game for the hometown Bucs. Bay also is serving, along with Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski, as the official spokesperson of FanFest.

He started his day doing ESPN's Cold Pizza, then was mobbed in Derek Jeter-like fashion in the interview session. This morning, Bay attends a 6 a.m. breakfast with Century 21 sponsors and the fan whose designated player won the home run contest at a downtown Pittsburgh hotel.

"It's been a little more hectic because it is a home game for us, lots more local responsibilities," Bay said. "I'll never have a chance to do anything like this again in my career."

Bay figured that he might hit lower in the order.

"I don't think it's really going to hit me until I get out there," Bay said. "You can dream about it all you want, but until you get out there and actually do it, it's a totally different feel."

Garner decided to hit Pujols third and Bay fourth, rather than the other way around, because Bay hit so well against Garner's Houston Astros with runners on base.


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